By Stephen Willis, M.MFT., LPC, LMFT

Dr. Linda Duncan is a Professor Emeritus at Tarleton State University. She found in her research that there are four times of the day when a few minutes of positive effort can influence a positive or negative outcome for the day. This is based on Chaos Theory, so let me first illustrate what that is.

Chaos Theory is a mathematical theory that has an application in many other areas of study. It is sometimes referred to as the “butterfly effect” (where theoretically a butterfly beating its wings in a box canyon in Mexico might eventually cause a tornado in Kansas. I like to illustrate it this way. I have heard that there is a county courthouse in Colorado that has its roof running along the Continental Divide, the land west of the courthouse slopes downward to the West, and the land east slopes to the East. So rain that falls on one side of the roof will eventually (theoretically) end up in a river that eventually gets to the Gulf of Mexico and into the Atlantic while rain that falls on the other side has the potential of ending up in the Pacific Ocean. A slight breeze from the East or the West can make a huge difference in outcome.

In the same way, three minutes thoughtfully spent in four crucial times of the day can make a huge difference in your own life and the lives of the others in your family. Here are those crucial times with some questions to consider:

1. Sleep to wakefulness

  • What thoughts and attitudes do you display first thing in the morning (realize that others probably have a better answer to this than you do and be open to their description)?
  • What effects do you have on those around you?
  • What excuses do you make for your demeanor, and are these acceptable when others make them?
  • How often do you try to push your mood on others (grumpy or larkish)?

2. When people are leaving the house

  • How do you say goodbye?
  • This brief time sets the tone for how you think about the other person or persons during the work or school day.

3. Coming home

  • Do you have a transitional tradition before you get home or after you get home in order to separate from work or school?
  • How do you prepare your thinking for home? What are your usual attitudes and actions when you arrive at home?
  • If you are the one who is at home when your partner or children arrive, what do you do in preparation for their arrival
  • Do you plan or improvise?
  • Which best describes this transition in your home? A warm reunion? Everyone dumping the contents of the day’s wastebaskets on the floor? A cold front? Other?

4. One person goes off to sleep

  • What messages do you send to loved ones?
  • Do you have bedtime rituals (really important with children and spouses)?
  • Do you wind down and get ready for bed or do you merely “crash and burn?”

Putting more thought and effort into these four times a day will make a big difference in your family life. Let me offer one last suggestion that a friend who is very much into technology has as a rule in his family. Have a time when everyone (everyone) stops using their tech devices. Have a central charging place like the kitchen counter. Let all your friends know that this is the family rule (of course, people who are on call will have to have exceptions).